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Michelle Obama’s Fashion Transformation: 10 Looks That Forever Changed Her Style Legacy

Michelle Obama has spent the past month on tour to promote her book, “The Light We Carry.” It’s the second tome from the former first lady (her first book, “Becoming,” released in 2018, after she and President Barack Obama left the White House). The circuit has included late night talk shows and sold-out venues across the country, where Obama has conversed with the likes of Oprah, Conan O’Brien, Tyler Perry, Hoda Kotb and other boldface-named friends.

The tour has also inevitably brought about another round of style moments for one of history’s most fashion-forward first ladies. This time, though, Obama raised the stakes even higher, not only redefining what constitutes professional dress and what women can and should wear in their later decades but also essentially turning the legacy of First Lady style completely on its head, even in hep post-White House era.

In retrospect, it may have all started with a pair of boots. Back in December 2018, when the former FLOTUS kicked off her “Becoming” tour, she appeared on the stage of Brooklyn’s Barclays Center (for a conversation with Sarah Jessica Parker) wearing a pair of glittery stretch thigh-high boots from Balenciaga. The fashion choice instantly gathered criticism for the boots’ $3,900 price tag. But as Obama explained to Parker on that stage, “Now, I’m free to do whatever.”

That post-White House philosophy seems to have expanded even further for the first lady in the years since she wore those sparkly boots. On the second book tour, more advanced fashion trends were fair game, from cargo pants and track suits to scarf tops, experimental denim and full-look leather. It was all pulled together with the help of Meredith Koop, her longtime stylist — and an assortment of heeled booties from Stuart Weitzman, which Obama has worn nearly a dozen times recently. The first lady also changed her hair to include braids, noting to interviewer Ellen DeGeneres in her Nov. 15 appearance that it was a style she wanted to wear while in the White House but felt pressure to keep her hair straight as Americans were “getting adjusted” to having a Black president.

Obama’s new book centers on holding steady and keeping confidence in times of uncertainty. So it’s no surprise that the first lady would sartorially correspond with looks equally as bold. Herewith, a rundown of 10 looks that have signaled Michelle Obama’s style transformation since she left the White House — and redefined the aesthetics of First Lady fashion along the way.

1. Head to toe leather and studded boots

Obama wore a full look black leather jacket and trousers by Palmer Harding along with Stuart Weitzman studded boots and a braided bun while on tour in Atlanta on Dec. 2.

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - DECEMBER 02: Former First Lady Michelle Obama speaks onstage during the Michelle Obama: The Light We Carry Tour at The Fox Theatre on December 02, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Derek White/Getty Images for ABA)
Former First Lady Michelle Obama speaks onstage during the Michelle Obama: The Light We Carry Tour at The Fox Theatre on December 02, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia.
CREDIT: Getty Images for ABA

2. Yellow silk and sparkly thigh-high Balenciaga boots

For her “Becoming” tour in 2018, Obama took the stage at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn with Sarah Jessica Parker wearing a pair of thigh-high Balenciaga boots. “They were just really cute,” she told Parker onstage. “I was like, ‘Those some nice boots!’”

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 19: Former first lady Michelle Obama discusses her book "Becoming" at Barclays Center on December 19, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)
Obama discusses her book “Becoming” at Barclays Center on December 19, 2018 in New York City.
CREDIT: Getty Images

3. The ultimate Inauguration Day power look

For the inauguration of President Joe Biden in January 21, Obama chose a head-to-toe maroon look by designer Sergio Hudson. The wide  leg pants, sweater and matching overcoat and belt were the ultimate winter power ensemble.

Former President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle are seen before US president-elect Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th US President on January 20, 2021, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo by JONATHAN ERNST / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JONATHAN ERNST/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama are seen before US president-elect Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th US President on January 20, 2021, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC.
CREDIT: POOL/AFP via Getty Images

4. A full denim look with braids

For her conversation with Ellen DeGeneres in Washington, D.C. to kick off her tour, Obama wore a denim set by Danish brand Ganni, paired with patent burgundy booties by Stuart Weitzman and a braided hair style. While in conversation with DeGeneres, the former first lady discussed the pressure while in the White House to keep her hair straight as Americans were “getting adjusted” to having a Black president.

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 15: Former First Lady Michelle Obama speaks onstage during the Michelle Obama: The Light We Carry Tour at Warner Theatre on November 15, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Live Nation)
Former First Lady Michelle Obama speaks onstage during the Michelle Obama: The Light We Carry Tour at Warner Theatre on November 15, 2022 in Washington, DC.
CREDIT: Getty Images for Live Nation

5. A new brand of power suiting

Pantsuits have long been the power uniform for women in politics, but Obama proved that they can also be cool while keeping their power connotations. The former first lady wore a neon yellow suit by Proenza Schouler for her “Today” show appearance in November, paired with Anny Nord shoes heels and Jennifer Fisher and Sara Weinstock jewelry. During her time in the White House, Obama rarely wore a pantsuit, opting instead for A-line dresses and skirts, often paired with cardigans and ballet flats. Her suit appearance not only redefined her style norms, it gave a new dimension to the symbol of the pantsuit.

TODAY -- Pictured: Michelle Obama on Monday, November 14, 2022 -- (Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBC via Getty Images)
Obama on the “Today” show, Monday, November 14, 2022 in New York.
CREDIT: Nathan Congleton/NBC via Getty I

6. A scarf top and wide leg denim

The former FLOTUS debuted perhaps her most carefree look yet when she stepped onstage in a Marine Serre dress, worn as a scarf style top, paired with wide leg Balmain jeans, another pair of Stuart Weitzman booties, hoop earrings by Elizabeth Hooper and Vhernier and Jennifer Fisher rings.

7. A portrait like no other

For the September 2022  unveiling of her White House portrait, Obama donned a ladylike pleated dress with Gianvito Rossi velvet pumps, a look that called back to her style during her years in the White House. But it was the portrait that made sartorial history:  Artist Sharon Sprung portrayed the first lady bare armed (an Obama style signature) in a pastel blue gown by Jason Wu.

UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 7: Former First Lady Michelle Obama attends the official White House portrait unveiling ceremony for herself and former President Barack Obama in the East Room of the White House on Wednesday, September 7, 2022. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Former First Lady Michelle Obama attends the official White House portrait unveiling ceremony for herself and former President Barack Obama in the East Room of the White House on Wednesday, September 7, 2022.
CREDIT: CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Imag

8. Haute athleisure

For the Atlanta leg of her tour, Obama got sporty with a Fila jacket, worn with Roksana cargo pants and a Christy Rilling bodysuit, Stuart Weitzman booties and jewelry by Nina Runsdorf and Jennifer Fisher.

9. A sequin jumpsuit

While appearing onstage with Lady Gaga, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Alicia Keys and Jennifer Lopez, Obama wore a silvery sequin suit by Sachin & Babi with Sophia Webster heels and jewelry by Sutra and Shiffon.

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: (L-R) Lady Gaga, Jada Pinkett Smith, Alicia Keys, Michelle Obama, and Jennifer Lopez speak onstage during backstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
Michelle Obama with Lady Gaga, Jada Pinkett Smith, Alicia Keys and Jennifer Lopez at the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
CREDIT: Getty Images for The Recording A

10. A crystal fringe suit

For the Toronto stop on her “Becoming” tour, Obama sported a crystal fringe suit by Area with Gianvito Rossi heels.

SCOTIABANK ARENA, TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA - 2019/05/04: Toronto hosted former First Lady, Michelle Obama, as she travels the continent on her book tour, "Becoming". "Becoming" is an autobiographical memoir of the First Lady's time in office. (Photo by Angel Marchini/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Michelle Obama in Toronto, 2018.
CREDIT: SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett

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